1000s of teachers protest government education reform plans in Mexico
Thousands of teachers and their supporters from across Mexico have converged on the capital to protest educational reform plans by the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto.
Nearly 4,000 teachers affiliated with the CNTE union and Section 22 of the Mexican National Educational Workers Union (SNTE) took part in the massive rally in Mexico City’s Reforma Boulevard on Friday to voice their opposition to the government’s plan to overhaul the Latin American country’s educational system.
They also demanded the release of two union leader as well as negotiations with the Education Ministry.
The development capped days of protests in the country’s impoverished southern regions.
During the Friday rally, teachers also blocked roads in the capital and were violently evicted from railways and roads in the states of Oaxaca and Michoacan by state and federal police, according to local reports.
In Mexico City, teachers were joined by the relatives of 43 missing students from the Ayotzinapa Teachers’ College, who continue to demand a serious probe by the government into allegations that they were mass-kidnapped and likely killed back in September 2014.
Peña Nieto unveiled his education reform plan in 2013 as part of a set of 11 neo-liberal structural reforms implemented in his first 20 months in office. Since then, teachers have been engaged in protest rallies, mostly in Mexico’s southeast states.
The controversial plan imposes teacher evaluation exams as a key measure to determine which applicants are qualified to fill open positions in the public school system nationwide.
Additionally, the Education Ministry has vowed to dismiss educators that refuse to take the examinations. The reform plan further intends to eliminate the power that unions have held over hiring decisions and end the reported practice in which teaching positions were either inherited or sold.
Critics, however, say the evaluation measure is merely aimed at justifying mass layoffs and does not effectively assess teaching skills, such as the special knowledge and demeanor needed to teach in rural areas and Indigenous communities.